Open Communications, Cultivating Contacts Key to Good Relations with Board, Chairs

Throughout your career, what have you found to be most successful in fostering a good relationship with your board members, especially your chair?

Gary Plummer
Jefferson City Area (MO) Chamber

I’ve had the opportunity to work with many different board members and board chairs in the past 43 years of chamber work. There are two things that have helped me survive and succeed.

The first is I always remembered that it’s their chamber and not mine. It actually took me about 4 or 5 years to figure that out but once I did, it made a huge difference in fostering a good working relationship.

Secondly, in working with the board chair, I have strived consistently to not take him or her by surprise on anything, including both professional and personal challenges I’ve faced over time.

Marnie Uhl, ACE
Prescott Valley (AZ) Chamber

What I have found to be successful in a good relationship with the board and especially the board chair is to be involved in the beginning with the nomination and election process for new board members. I identify and keep a list of potential board members and when the time comes, I have those names available to share with the nominating committee. Most of these business leaders will already have a relationship with me and a good understanding of our board makeup and culture.

The board chair is a relationship I cultivate early on in working toward board leadership. We have a succession system where there is a plan to ascend through the officer positions and ultimately to board chairman.

Open communication, transparency and personal interaction are keys to the success I have found with developing a great relationship with the board and especially the board chair.

Donna Duperron
Torrance Area (CA) Chamber

Open communication is a key component to fostering a successful relationship with board members, especially the chair. An important piece of that communication is to ensure through training that board members understand the mission, vision and bylaws of the organization.

Each board member communicates differently, so it is important to learn one another’s preferred communication style, whether it be an email, a phone call, or in person.

Communication is not only a common courtesy, but it is a necessary tool of professionalism that one should always strive to be better at.

Bill Marcum
Kelso-Longview (WA) Chamber

I recruit potential board members during the year (handpicked) and recommend them to the executive committee. They review the recommendations and select one, two or three from the list. They meet with them and decide whom to move forward to the full board for consideration, replacing the board members whose terms are expiring.

I do the same thing for the executive board, providing a list of those board members (handpicked) who said they would consider an executive committee position. The executive board consists of a past president, president, president-elect and vice president. Each year, the positions advance to the next level and a new board member is recruited to the vice president role.

My relationship with my board chair/president has always been a great relationship mainly because I chose who that will be in basically 4-year increments. I lead them down the path I want them to go.

Debbie Miller, IOM
Greater Woodland Park (CO) Chamber

I utilize a chair-elect survey given to them several months before their tenure begins as chair. Once completed, we get together to discuss their answers.

Communication is the key. When discussing their answers, be sure to ask questions — never assume you completely understand why they want this or that. Each has their own personality, communication style and mode of operations.

With technology as it is now, a chair who has indicated “text me” only doesn’t respond well to a voicemail or email. Simple but true.

My other nugget of success is my promise to the chair and my request/ask of them. My promise: You will absolutely never ever hear anything from anyone before you hear it from me. Good or bad. My ask is they do the same. If they hear something in reference to the chamber, staff, volunteers, etc., I am the first to know.